Over the holidays, I was at the grocery store so often I thought maybe I should just set up a cot in the produce aisle. So as we move into the cold, gray days of January – yes, even in Texas, we are having winter weather – I love the challenge of seeing how many days I can go without a run to the market. It’s a little like figuring out if you can make a Halloween costume out of what’s in your closet. Although with the grocery store, it’s mostly a question of how much cat food I have in the house. Not that I’m eating cat food, or that the cat doesn’t like my cooking, but fish in the morning? Yuk.
So, faced with the decision to trek to the store or not, I found myself standing in front of the open refrigerator door, in a position that reminded me of the teen years and the glassy-eyed stance my sons would assume when grazing for snacks. As the cold air wafted out into the kitchen, I unearthed a surplus of carrots (from the dish I thought I’d have time to make for a New Year’s Eve dinner), a bag of parsnips (from the yummy-sounding pear soup I also didn’t have time to make for New Year’s), a wobbly head of celery, a lonely turnip, and a half-finished box of baby arugula that was still – but just barely – fresh.
Random Vegetable Soup
In my kitchen, the solution almost always ends up being soup of some sort. I chopped the top off the celery and submerged the rest in cold water, which freshened it up in no time at all. I cut up an onion, sauteed it for 5 minutes in a tablespoon each of butter and olive oil, then added a minced clove of garlic (without which I would have had to go to the store, as who can make broth soup without garlic?) to cook for another 30 seconds, then poured in 6 cups of water and 2 tablespoons of Knorr Chicken Flavored Bouillon powder. This, by the way, is the best-tasting chicken broth I’ve ever found – so much better than the tasteless stuff that comes in cans, and a whole lot easier than making your own which, though delightful, takes a day, and who has a day when you’re just trying to make lunch out of whatever’s in the frig? Also, you can buy a gi-normous jar of it at Costco, which means you’re hardly ever without the basis for soup of some sort.
Then I started chopping veggies, and kept adding them until the soup looked full enough. The carrots and celery take the longest to cook, so I start with them, and the arugula – which ends up tasting a lot like spinach – only needs a couple of minutes, so it's last. Somewhere in the middle of the veggies, I tossed in my standard veggie or chicken soup flavoring: a bay leaf, a teaspoon of dried dill, and a teaspoon of dried thyme. Garlic salt to taste. And at the very end, fresh parsley if I have it. Then I had a lightbulb moment, remembering a very tasty tortilla soup recipe I tried recently, and I chopped up an avocado(!!), and added it to the still simmering soup. So Texas has taught me something new. It was enough to make the Soup Nazi weep. And voilà – lunch.